Genetic adaptations are key to microbe's survival in challenging environment

Feb 06, 2009

The research focused on the bacterium Nautilia profundicola, a microbe that survives near deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Photosynthesis cannot occur in this dark environment, where hot, toxic fluids oozing from below the seafloor combine with cold seawater at very high pressures.

The study, involving scientists at the University of Delaware, the Davis and Riverside campuses of the University of California, the Universities of Louisville, KY, and Waikato, New Zealand, and the J. Craig Venter Institute, combined genome analysis with physiological and ecological observations to investigate the importance of one gene in N. profundicola. Previous studies found the gene only in microorganisms growing in temperatures greater than 80oC, but N. profundicola thrives best at much lower temperatures. The gene's presence in N. profundicola suggests that it might play a role in the bacterium's ability to survive rapid and frequent temperature fluctuations in its environment.

The researchers also uncovered further adaptations to the vent environment, including genes necessary for growth and sensing environmental conditions, and a new route for nitrate assimilation related to how other bacteria use ammonia as an energy source.

These results help to explain how microbes survive near deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where conditions are thought to resemble those found on early Earth, as described in the study. Improved understanding of microbes living in these conditions may aid our understanding of how life evolved here.

Paper: Campbell BJ, Smith JL, Hanson TE, Klotz MG, Stein LY, et al. (2009) Adaptations to Submarine Hydrothermal Environments Exemplified by the Genome of Nautilia profundicola. PLoS Genet 5(2): e1000362. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000362
www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000362

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Roaring success: lions return to Rwanda, with rhinos next?

Related Stories

Artificial enzymes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

May 19, 2015

Enzymes are biological catalysts that accelerate chemical reactions, such as the conversion of gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbonates. Carbonates are the basic component of coral reefs, mollusc shells, ...

The solar system and beyond is awash in water

Apr 08, 2015

As NASA missions explore our solar system and search for new worlds, they are finding water in surprising places. Water is but one piece of our search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth, yet it links ...

The vital question: Why is life the way it is?

Apr 01, 2015

The Vital Question: Why is life the way it is? is a new book by Nick Lane that is due out on April 23rd. His question is not one for a static answer but rather one for a series of ever sharper explanations—explanations that a ...

Recommended for you

Shark's unique trek could help save the species

11 hours ago

Her name is Jiffy Lube2, a relatively small shortfin mako shark that, like others of her kind, swims long distances every day in search of prey and comfortable water temperatures.

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Jul 03, 2015

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.